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An open letter to ambitious moms this Mother's Day

Posted: 05/13/2013 4:06 pm

Dear Ambitious Mom:

I recently fulfilled my annual, obligatory field trip with my son's class. Each year I attend only one and it marks the beginning and end of my involvement in his school.

Sure, this ritual began early on in his academic life as a way to prove to the stay-at-home set that I possess a passing interest in school activities. But after a few years, I realized how much I enjoyed the opportunity to play hooky with a group of kids, relishing the chance to tap maple syrup or attend a theatrical production. This year's event focused on experimental dance - an activity I love to watch but never would if it didn't include accompanying 28 of my son's classmates. In between performances, I remembered what it felt like to live in a moment and not respond to a tsunami of emails. Surely, this is something you can relate to, AM.

On this trip, my son's friend sheepishly admitted to me that he thought our nanny was my son's mother. Many mothers would wince at those words but I laughed and realized how comfortable I am with my role as a full-time working mother. Our nanny makes a great surrogate in my absence and I feel no guilt over my early morning meetings, the occasional travel or even my lack of culinary skills. Not even a bit.

This wasn't always the case and statistically speaking, many women feel torn with their dual roles. A 2009 Pew Study showed that a large percentage of men and women alike believe that the idea scenario for young children is a mother who works part-time or not at all.

AM, I know that you've been following this conversation about the issues affecting working mothers over the last year. It remains surprisingly complex. On one side, we have Sheryl Sandberg's manifesto, encouraging more women to take an active role in the workforce. On the other, we have Anne-Marie Slaughter's http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/ acknowledgment that we sometimes fall flat in our daily juggle. Then the astronomically successful outliers, such as Marissa Mayer, remind us that there exist exceptions to all the rules we think govern our parenting and career choices.

Which leads me to my Mother's Day confession: I want it all. Yes, call me greedy but I want a fabulous career, a wonderful partner and happy, reasonably well-adapted children. For a moment, let's stop focusing on the unconscious bias that permeates the workforce, or the unequal sharing of household duties and remember what it's like to be filled with dreams and ambition.

No one would dare tell a marathon runner that she can't finish a race before the starting gun gets fired so why tell women that their options remain limited? I don't want my generation to be known as the one that opted-out. No matter how you define it, it feels tainted with defeat.

Wanting more remains a critical component of ambition. We wouldn't have gotten this far if we didn't want it all -- right AM? Remember those all-nighters at university? Did we spend endless nights working on our laptops in the dark next to sleeping baby earlier on in our careers to merely throw in the towel?

This Mother's Day I want to enjoy being unselfconsciously ambitious. I want to remember the fighter who never took no for an answer and believed that every problem came with a solution that just needed to be discovered. We tell our girls that they can be anything they want; let's not change our minds when they enter the workforce. You and I both know, the kids will be all right, even if their mothers work full-time. But if we aren't true to ourselves, and living the life we always wanted, will we be?

 

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